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South Africa Approves First Commercial Windfarm

Date: 02-Mar-05
Country: SOUTH AFRICA

The ministry said its director-general on Monday approved plans for a windfarm in the Darling district of Western Cape province after concluding that the positive effects would far outweigh any possible environmental impact.

The farm will include four 50 metre (165 foot) high Danish designed wind turbines with a blade span of 31 metres and a combined output of 5.2 megawatts.

The Danish govenment aid agency Danida was helping fund the project, the minstry said.

"It is being referred to as the National Demonstration Project, because it will be used as an example for future public-private partnerships in the establishment of electricity generation, which was historically largely the sole domain of Eskom," it said.

South Africa plans to overhaul its electricity sector, creating regional distributing companies to rationalise a web of different supply mechanisms and inviting private investors to build new power stations to expand generating capacity.

Eskom, which the ministry said had installed three turbines in 2004 for research purposes, has long produced some of the world's cheapest power, mostly from South Africa's large coal reserves.

But with electricity pylons reaching ever further into impoverished parts of rural South Africa and demand soaring, it is branching out into renewable forms of power generation.

The company is spending 12 billion rand ($2.05 billion) on recommissioning three coal power stations mothballed due to excess capacity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the government plans to spend $3 billion building three entirely new power stations.

Like its counterparts in China, Eskom also hopes to develop a new nuclear generator, known as a pebble bed modular reactor (PMBR), but that project met a set-back in January when a court decision revoked government approval and re-opened the debate on the environmental impact.

Separately, Eskom is at the forefront of a $50 billion project to put new generators on the Congo river's Inga Rapids in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which it says could provide the energy needs of 13 southern African countries and eventually form the hub of an Africa-wide power network.

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